Trench Warfare

7:30 AM

There’s a story of an American general in the War of 1812 who planned on attacking the British. His were the superior troops, at least as numbers go; the outcome had practically predetermined itself, but still he charged them: Would they surrender? No, they wouldn’t.

So he packed up his men and retreated.

(If I remember correctly, the President fired him for incompetence.)

Contrast that to every tear-jerker war movie where they held out to the bloody, bitter end. They became the heroes. They earned the prize. They fought the good fight against all odds. We wouldn’t have blamed them had they given up—after all, hopeless was hopeless—but that makes them all the more heroic.

I thought about this, in the shower, of course (my friend and I have this theory going that all the best thoughts enter the brain when the head is thrust under that elevated spigot)—thought how I had given up that week. Just completely went crabby and grumpy. Just sat by myself. Just cried. Just pushed away everyone and everything—

—all when victory was mine: “Take heart,” Christ told us: “I have overcome the world.”

Interestingly, the small fights seem the most disheartening: we stop fighting for joy, stop being thankful, stop spreading love, and close inward, surrender, give up like everything’s hopeless.

A big lesson I learned this year: It’s never hopeless. I have fought out of depression, out of darkness, out of pity, out of fear and doubt and guilt—and it’s never hopeless.

A friend described Christian growth not as doing all the right things and rarely feeling tempted but as getting out of the temptation as quickly as possible. It’s trench warfare. Spirits climb high and fall low, and how many lows we experience in a given moment don’t matter as long as we climb out of them as soon as we fall in. The fight isn’t fought on spiritual highs and happy days, but crawling through the pit, upward, always upward.

When we’re tempted, when we trip into (or walk into, on particularly horrid days) the trench, that blaring we hear? That’s not the call to retreat. That’s the sound of victory.

So many times I’ll have a good streak of daily morning devotions or a few wonderful days of prayer, and then all of a sudden, I just won’t. And instead of girding myself for battle, recognizing that of course Satan would target me now when my walk with the Lord is developing stronger, I flop onto my bed. Horrible, horrible me—I just don’t love the Word! Despicable wretch that I am—won’t I ever grow up? Why me, why me, why me?

Can you just see all the true heroes giving each other glances at their comrade giving up before the battle begun—the battle we are destined to win?

The question we shouldn’t wonder at during a trial or a tempation is whether we will win. Of course we will. It’s guaranteed: Christ has conquered Satan; Satan has no power over us; God is all-powerful; God does not allow temptation too hard for us to bear; the devil will flee if we resist him; and strength is ours for the asking. Winning is obviously obvious.

The only variable is the duration of the trial or temptation, whether it’s a fleeting thought which can die with a quick parry, a more lengthy hand-to-hand combat, or an all-out, lifelong battle. But giving up—that is unthinkable. It’s more than unthinkable: it’s absolutely ridiculous.

As ridiculous as retreating right before the victory.

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8 impressions

  1. I like the war analogy, and you're right, it's easy to give up when the going gets rough. I just realized that I should be embracing my physics class and asking for help from God, rather than trying to plow through and counting down 'til it's over. I'm beginning to think of physics as a humbling experience. I've always been good at science no matter how much I've disagreed with it. Now, I'm finally hitting a scientific snag and I didn't know how to deal with it. God can help in every trouble. He just helped me write a 5 page paper last night (literally, I had no where to begin), why couldn't he help me with simple physics.

    I'm also glad to see a gender neutral post too.

  2. Love this ... yes, it does no good to retreat and yet that is human nature. I am encouraged today to gird myself with the armor of God.

  3. Amen! So many times, I too, have wonderful Bible study and prayer times...I'm encouraged, excited, and motivated. Other times, I really am not and that is where God truly grows me in endurance and patience in my Christian walk. I like to think of Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. I have to pray that I would look to Him in those seasons of drought.

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  5. Very well said. To quote Galaxy Quest just a tad out of context:

    "Never give up! Never surrender!"

  6. I totally relate to this, struggle every single day (moment?) with it. Of course.

    Who said being a Christian was easy? "Take up thy cross and follow me."


  7. Thank you, Bailey, for adding to the lesson God is currently teaching me.

  8. "I just don’t love the Word! Despicable wretch that I am—won’t I ever grow up? Why me, why me, why me?"

    Aha! Yes, this is me far too often. I think, though, that like you said, it's very important to recognize the devil's attacks. It is sin to fall into temptation, yes, but recognition of the temptation is key. It isn't just me being wretched that makes me fall, it's the cloying smell of the devil's perfume--all too appealing for a moment.

    But then we sin. And Jesus picks up again. And we press forward. Praise God! He is victorious!


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